Monday, June 23, 2008

Sharing Some Processing Secrets

Yes, you read correctly the title. I thought that I would go ahead and share some of my secrets with you guys and how I process my photos. Why? Well why not!?!? I get a LOT of notes asking me "How did you do this and that?", "Can you help me with.....?", "I am curious how you got the look of such and such shot.....", etc. etc. So I thought that I would go ahead and basically tackle everything in one journal. So buckle up. go grab a cup of Joe, pull up a chair, and get ready to dive in! Away we go!

I shoot everything in RAW. And I am of the FIRM belief that if your camera has the ability and capability then you should be too. About the only exception I can see is if you are a sports shooter and your camera can't do 8fps in RAW when you need it. In reality, I don't know of anyone on DA who does that kinda work. There probably is somewhere though. There is just NO excuse for not taking your images in th ebest possible settings and at the highest quality allowed.

The whole creative process is essentially 2 fold for me. Basically when I am out in the field shooting, I know how I want a shot to look already. I study the composition and choose an angle which I feel works, cropping in camera, trying different focal lengths, etc. This is usually part one, so in my head I know what I want. Now this can and often gets totally turned around 180 degrees when I download my shots and I start the post work processing. Often times, I will change the way I wanted the shot to look in the field, inside PS. B&W, Sepia, Cropping, etc. Often I edit and then I compare..mentally and physically. Sometimes I like it how I shot it, other times, I prefer something else.

Now some of you may be surprised by this next one lol My camera's white balance is almost ALWAYS set on 'sunset' white balance. Why? Well...basically what I have discovered on my camera is this---when I shoot this way, everything has a yellow & orange tint, and often these colors are very hard to expose for correctly. By having my white balance as such, it allows me some greater flexibility when I go to edit my shots. Seeing as I shoot in RAW, my white balance is totally adjustable. So I can always fine tune it, but doing it first in camera allows for a lot of speed and also accuracy. I first started doing this last Autumn when I was shooting the colors of Fall, and since then I haven't changed it really.

Filters. A Circular Polarizer is absolutely mandatory, and Neutral Density filters are not far behind.

I use essentially 3 RAW converters in my workflow---Lightroom, Photoshop's ACR, and AcDeeSee Pro Photo v2. So why 3? Because they each do different things. There really isn't one whole solution that I have found yet when it comes to editing RAW files. Lightroom can do things AcDeeSee can't and vice versa. So I will use one if I am wanting a specific look & feel for a shot.

LucisArt is used in almost EVERYTHING I process. One of the great things about this program is it's ability to recover specific areas of dynamic range in a shot, like adding the sun's highlights on the blades of grass. The info is already contained within a photo, but by using LucisArt, I am able to bring that out farther.

Fred Miranda Photography Plugins & Actions are used constantly for final results. The "Intellisharpner" plugin is the greatest thing since sliced bread and I also use the "Velvia" and "B&W Workflow Pro" with regularity as well.

Layer Masking...and what a Godsend that is! Live it, love it, breathe it! For those of you who wish to see a technique similar to mine using layer masking, but a lil more in depth than mine, head over to the BlueHourPhoto Blog for a video demonstration.

I shoot almost 100% of my shots in ISO 100, and sometimes use ISO 80 or 200. Rarely ever will I shoot above that....unless I need a shot off FAST. But generally, I shoot in lower ISO ranges.

HDR. Sometimes I know when I am shooting a shot if it will be HDR, other times I don't know til I am editing. Some shots are made for the technique while others don't work at all for it. Not all shots have the look and feel that is right for it IMO.

I actually don't use my tripod much unless I am needing a longer exposure say with waterfalls, or if the light is low. I know I should, and don't get me wrong, I do use it, but often when I am shooting, I sometimes need to be fast, cuz I am holding up traffic behind me while I am out in the middle of the road! lol

I use Noise Ninja exclusively for Noise Reduction in post work and every shot incorporates it and often combined with layer masking as well. It is an essential part of my workflow.

Every single shot I take
has the curves, levels, and exposure adjusted. Call it fine tuning if you will. Again, essential part of my workflow.

I don't have or use a dedicated Macro lens, instead I use my Minolta kit lens, an 18-70mm zoom that has 1:2 Macro capability, along with a set of macro filters (close up diopters) that screw on the end of my lens and can be stacked for greater magnification. These are cheap, 10- off ebay! And they work excellent!

Well that be about all that I can think of at the moment, if anyone has any questions, just feel free to ask me, and I will do my best in answering. I know there is a lot more that I do, but it is early yet and my brain doesn't function it's best at this time of the morning on Sunday's lol

I hope you all are having a nice weekend. Mine is going pretty good. Yesterday's photoshoot in Rocky Mountain National Park yielded some nice results. A little about that real quickly----it was rather challenging for me, as I was with a friend and we left late. But I was of the mind set that this would be something different, shooting in not optimal and harsh lighting, so I took it as a challenge. And if anything, it forced me to look and see things differently, and to look closer and not so much at the massive view styled landscapes, but something of a more intimate and closer flavor...immediate surroundings. I came out doing pretty good. Now if someone can just hold off the tourists...sheesh what a damn zoo it was. To many people, now ya know why I leave at 4am! So there were like 20 cars pulled off the side of teh road, all these people had their lil cameras taking pics, we pull up and here is this HUGE Bull Elk standing in a river in the middle of the forest 15 feet from the road. I roll down my window to fire a shot off with my 75-300 and all the sudden....I see someone ass in my frame! I was all 'wtf.....they are to close!" And I back off my lens to see this VERY GOOD looking redhead in a miniskirt, about 25, and I yell out, "you are to close to him! you are putting yourself in danger!" And she looks back at me, like I am being rude. So I say "Never mind the fact that your ass is a closeup in my 300mm and is about to be plastered all over the internet too! Not that I mind, you have a nice ass, but hey! Just a FYI!!!"..she moved but by that time the damn Elk was gone! Ugh people!
A few shots down below from RMNP......enjoy!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Famous Lipizzan & Arabian Horses

Where to even start this at......
I was given the VERY rare opportunity to spend some time with the world famous Lipizzan & Arabian Stallions today...up close, intimate, personal, and essentially alone.... Capturing them in the camera is well, the only thing I can describe is that it's akin to a spiritual experience. One Arabian really took a special liking to me, and I was able to spend a lot of time with him, getting to know him, while he constantly goofed around, wanting to play. The bruises all up and down my right arm from 'love taps' say it all. What a character and what personality!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What IS a beautiful photo?

I almost feel compelled to write this, after Thursday evening. I was on here, bored, killing some time for a few minutes when I decided to browse the photography>artistic nudes area, which I NEVER do. But I figured I would see how fast it would take til I filed a report for a porn picture. Well after about 1 minute, I saw this shot that got my attention. It was of a gal who was in her 30s, very overweight, who took some nude self portraits. These weren't snapshots, but were artistically done, she obviously has skill in lighting and posing. I thought to myself " I am going to click on this just to see what people are saying", and ya know, I shouldn't have. What I saw not only disgusted me but pissed me off as well. A few deviants were really going off on her, saying some of the meanest, crudest, and rudest things you can imagine....about her weight and how disgusting she is. I sat in total shock.

But then I started reading her watchers comments and seeing how they defended her and how she would respond with nothing but actually nice words to these people.

Ya know what? I sat and I wrote her a length reply about how I respect her, for everything she does and everything she stands for. She certainly has more balls than I do, I will say that! I couldn't do what she does! I think it's people like her that the world needs more of. Someone who breaks down sociological stereotypes, and makes people think. She basically threw herself to the Wolves on DA, but the message she was sending was loud and clear. And the comments she received indicated that....people these days are sad....and so is humankind.

So with this, seeing all this, I had to ask myself, what is a beautiful photo? What makes people stop and look, longer at one shot than another? What blurs the line between subject matter interest and technical perfection? Can YOU see through the lines, when a model who weighs 400 pounds is nude, and see the beauty within the contained the photo? The lighting, the shadow, the exposure? Or are YOU blinded by societies social blinding of Paris Hilton and what beauty is?

Think about'll get it......maybe....